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Rev. Gerald John ROBINSON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Roman Catholic priest
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 5, 1980
Date of arrest: April 23, 2004
Date of birth: April 14, 1938
Victim profile: Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, 71 (Catholic nun)
Method of murder: Stabbing with a sword-shaped letter opener 31 times
Location: Toledo, Ohio, USA
Status: Sentenced to 15 years in prison on May 11, 2006

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The Court of Appeals of Ohio


decision and judgment entry L-06-1182


Reverend Gerald Robinson (born April 14, 1938) is an American murderer and Roman Catholic priest. On May 11, 2006 he was convicted of the murder of nun Margaret Ann Pahl, which occurred on April 5, 1980. He is currently appealing against his conviction.

Murder of Pahl

In 1980 Robinson was the chaplain at the Toledo Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio where he ministered to the sick and terminally ill. Sister Pahl was the caretaker of the chapel.

Robinson was convicted of strangling and stabbing Pahl, who was 71 at the time, in an annex adjacent to a chapel of the hospital where they worked together. The priest presided at her funeral Mass four days after her death.

Pahl was stabbed 31 times, including nine times in what prosecutors contended was the shape of an inverted cross, leading investigators to believe the slaying was intended to humiliate Pahl in death. Pahl was found covered in an altar cloth, her clothes and body arranged to suggest she had been sexually assaulted, although this was not clear.

It has also been suggested that Robinson is a satanist priest, one who purposely defies the rules, and provides sacraments for satanists.

Forensic tests indicated that a sword-shaped letter opener found in Robinson's apartment was not inconsistent with the weapon that inflicted the wounds; in the words of the prosecutor's expert, it could "not be ruled out." The tip of the opener fit a wound in the jaw of the nun's exhumed body "like a key in a lock," according to prosecutors.

Male DNA was found underneath the sister's fingernails and on her underwear, which did not match the DNA of Robinson. Prosecutors successfully argued that the DNA was an "artifact," in other words it must have come from an unrelated source after the murder.

Bloodstains found on the altar cloth were also consistent with the shape of the letter opener, although one prosecution witness also conceded that the stains appeared to match a pair of scissors which were missing from the scene.

Robinson was questioned about the crime in 1980, but was not charged. The case remained unsolved, with no new leads, until 2003 when police received a letter from a woman who claimed that Robinson had sexually abused her when she was a child in a series of satanic cult rituals that also involved human sacrifice.

The case shocked parishioners in the Toledo Catholic community. The case against Robinson went to trial on April 24, 2006. Robinson was found guilty on all counts on May 11, 2006.

This ruling marks the second time that a Catholic priest has been convicted of a homicide in the United States. Hans Schmidt was the first.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Robinson's appeal in October 2009.


Complete Summary of the Robinson Murder Case


April 24, 2006

TOLEDO -- As the State of Ohio prepares to try Father Gerald Robinson for the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, News 11 provides here an overview of the case unfolding in a Lucas County courtroom.

The Crime:

Twenty-six years ago, on the day before Easter, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, 71, was found dead by another nun in the sacristy of one of the chapels at Mercy Hospital in Toledo. She was lying on her back with an altar cloth covering part of her body. Sister Margaret Ann had been stabbed approximately 30 times in her chest and neck in a pattern that investigators said resembled a cross. Police believe the weapon used in the stabbing was a dagger-shaped letter opener that belonged to the priest serving as the hospital's chaplain.

Sister Margaret Ann, who police say was not sexually assaulted, had also been strangled.

The Victim:

Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was born in the small Williams County town of Edgerton, Ohio. She entered the Sisters of Mercy at the St. Bernadine Convent in Fremont in 1927. She had a nursing background and was the associate director of nursing at Mercy Hospital from 1962 to 1966. She also worked in pastoral care and did sacristy work at Mercy from 1971 to 1980. At the time of her death, Sister Margaret Ann was the caretaker of the hospital chapel.

Had she lived one more day, Sister Margaret Ann would have been 72.

The Investigation:

Investigator Tom Ross, 58, has investigated 200-250 murder cases. He retired as a Toledo Police detective after 30 years with the department. Ross now works for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, where he has helped solve 34 cold cases.

In April, 2004, Ross and Sgt. Steve Forrester arrested Father Gerald Robinson for the murder of Sister Margaret Ann.

Forrester, 50, has been a Toledo police officer for 27 years. In 2003, he added a law degree to his credentials. Forrester supervises the cold case unit.

Cold case investigator Ross testified in an earlier hearing that when he interviewed Father Robinson in April, 2004, the priest said he had just gotten out of the shower when a nun called him and said Sister Margaret Ann was dead. According to Ross, Robinson said he then hurried to the chapel.

"He advised us that he observed Sister Margaret Ann laying on her back in the sacristy, apparently dead. He said that he saw Father Swiatecki anointed the body," Ross testified.

Ross also said he asked Father Robinson about something he had said to a former detective in 1980 -- and this is a key element of the prosecution’s case. Ross testified that Robinson was questioned about a statement he had made to Toledo Police detective Art Marx in 1980. Ross said the priest told Marx that someone had confessed to him concerning the murder of Sister Margaret Ann. Ross testified that the priest later said he lied about that confession.

Footsteps were another topic Ross raised with Father Robinson. They were found near where Sister Margaret Ann was found stabbed and strangled. Ross said in testimony, "The significance of the location is that they occurred on the floor where he was the only resident."

Investigators say Father Robinson admitted that the letter opener police believe was used to stab Sister Margaret Ann had been in his exclusive control before police seized it in 1980. Ross testified that he asked Father Robinson, "If that being the case, did you or did you not kill Sister Pahl? Wouldn't that point to you, Father?" Shortly after those questions, Father Robinson was arrested.

Police have not disclosed a motive for the slaying.

Some community members have accused the Toledo police and the Toledo Catholic Diocese of not aggressively investigating both the nun's murder and crimes involving priests accused of molesting children. "We know this is a trial about murder, but the cover-up can't be ignored," said Claudia Vercelloti, director of the Toledo office of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Current and former police officers deny there was a cover-up, saying Robinson was not charged earlier because there was not enough evidence. There were no fingerprints or witnesses, and DNA technology was not available.

After the initial investigation in 1980, the case went cold. Investigators reopened the murder case in December 2003 after the prosecutor's office received a letter about a woman's claims that she was molested by priests for years as a child. Among the names she mentioned was Robinson. Police were unable to substantiate her allegations of sexual abuse.

There also have been whispers that a few priests, including Robinson, took part in ritual abuse ceremonies. A woman, who filed a lawsuit against Robinson and other clergy members, said they tortured and raped her in rituals performed in a church basement nearly 40 years ago.

Robinson's attorney, Alan Konop, has said the allegations did not "deserve the dignity of a reply." Police could not link any ritual abuse to Robinson, and no charges have resulted from the woman's claims.

However, police have said the nun's killing appeared to be some type of ritual slaying. They have refused to elaborate, other than to say that the body was posed to look as though she had been sexually assaulted. Sister Margaret Ann's underwear was pulled down.

Dave Davison, the first police officer to arrive in the chapel, said he saw no evidence of a ritual and called those claims a "smokescreen" set by the killer to throw off investigators.

It is not known if there will be any mention of ritual abuse at Robinson's trial. Dawn Perlmutter, an expert on religious violence and ritualistic crimes, has been assisting prosecutors. She said that she has advised prosecutors in other cases not to mention claims of ritualistic acts. "It just muddies the water," she said. "People do not want to believe these things go on. It can really affect the outcome."

The Accused:

Father Gerald Robinson was a popular priest. He was especially well-liked in Toledo's Polish neighborhoods because he delivered some sermons in Polish, and also heard confessions in Polish.

He was born in Toledo 68 years ago, and was ordained at Toledo Rosary Cathedral in 1964. He worked as an associate pastor at Christ the King and St. Adalbert in Toledo, and at St. Michael in Findlay . He also served as pastor at St. Anthony in Toledo, and was a chaplain at Sylvania's Flower Hospital.

In 1980 when Sister Margaret Ann was killed, Father Robinson was serving as chaplain at Mercy Hospital. He was transferred from the hospital a year after the slaying and became pastor at three parishes in Toledo. At the time of his arrest more than two decades later -- in April, 2004 -- Father Robinson was ministering to the sick and dying in nursing homes.

The priest was initially charged with aggravated murder. That charge was later reduced to murder, removing the need for the prosecution to prove that the crime was premeditated.

If convicted, Father Robinson could face 15 years to life in prison, rather than the sentence of 20 years to life he could have faced had he been convicted of the original charge. He is not eligible for the death penalty because it was not in effect at the time of the crime.

Father Robinson is currently on leave, but he is allowed to wear his priest's collar.

Jack Sparagowski, a parishioner at an inner-city church where Robinson used to celebrate Mass on Easter weekend, set up a legal defense fund that raised $12,000. Some family members and supporters put up their houses to post a $400,000 bond.

"For someone to commit murder, you have to have a violent streak," Sparagowski said. "I've never heard Father raise his voice or show any expression of anger. The whole thing seems so bizarre."

The Trial:

The State of Ohio's case against Father Gerald Robinson will unfold in a Lucas County courtroom beginning Monday, April 17th. After jury selection and opening arguments, the first witness is expected to take the stand on April 24th.

The Judge:

The presiding judge in The State of Ohio versus Father Gerald Robinson is 50-year-old Thomas Osowik. He is a graduate of the University of Toledo law school.

Judge Osowik started out in civil and administrative law, then became a Toledo Municipal Court judge in 1991. He took the bench as a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge in 2005.

He is currently assigned to other high-profile cases, including the one involving Dellmus Colvin, who police say is a serial killer – and he will preside over Tom Noe’s trial when the state prosecutes the more than 50 charges that have been lodged against him.

The Lawyers:

The lead prosecutor on the case is 52-year-old Dean Mandros, a graduate of the University of Toledo's law school. He has been a prosecutor for 24 years and has worked on several high-profile cases -- including the Summer El-Okdi murder case, which resulted in the conviction of Douglas Coley and Joseph Green. Summer's body was found near the Toledo Museum of Art in 1997.

Mandros also prosecuted Jamie Madrigal, who was convicted of the 1996 murder of Misty Fisher at a Toledo KFC restaurant. Madrigal has been granted a new trial. And Anthony and Nathaniel Cook, Toledo brothers who were serial killers in the 1980s, were prosecuted by Mandros and convicted.

Chris Anderson, 51, takes second chair on the prosecution team. He, too, is a graduate of the University of Toledo law school and has been a prosecutor for 23 years.

Anderson's key prosecutions include the Matthew Reiner case. Reiner was convicted of shaking his baby boy to death, but that conviction was later overturned. Anderson also prosecuted Timothy Hoffner and Archie Dixon. Both are now on death row, convicted of burying Christopher Hammer alive in 1995.

Anderson also handled the forgery case against business mogul Ed Bergsmark, who was owner of Cavalear Realty at the time of the crime.

Defending Father Robinson will be 69-year-old Alan Konop. He graduated from the University of Toledo law school and has been a defense attorney for 43 years. Konop has considerable experience in handling high-profile cases, including the defense of UT police officer Jeffrey Hodge, who confessed to shooting and killing UT student Melissa Herstrum in 1992.

Konop won an acquittal for Kim Anderson, who shot her husband to death in self defense in Wyandot County. He also represented Kelly Jagodzinski, the woman who left her dead baby in a wooden box behind Tam-O-Shanter ice rink in 2000.

Another attorney on Father Robinson's defense team is 44-year-old John Thebes, who -- like the judge, the prosecutors, and Konop -- is a graduate of the University of Toledo law school. He squared off against Dean Mandros in the Jamie Madrigal trial.

More recently, Thebes represented Jamie Pacheco, who was found not guilty of dropping from an overpass a steel plate that killed Dorothy Minggia in 2004. Thebes was also the lawyer for the defendants in a federal racketeering trial involving a group of suspects known as “The Outlaws.”

Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys will comment on the Robinson case. The judge has ordered them not to talk about it.

The Witnesses:

Key witnesses expected to testify during the trial include two well-known forensic scientists, a forensic anthropologist, and the local investigators who arrested Father Robinson.

Dr. Henry Lee is perhaps the most recognized forensic scientist in the world. He’s expected to testify for the prosecution. Lee is a DNA expert, and is credited with helping law enforcement solve more than 6,000 cases.

Dr. Lee testified for the defense at O.J. Simpson's trial, and he has been consulted in the investigation into the death of JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado. He also provided testimony at the William Kennedy Smith trial.

Forensic scientist Paulette Sutton could be one of the most important witnesses for the prosecution. She's one of only four people in the world who is considered an expert in bloodstain pattern analysis. She is expected to talk about blood transfer evidence.

Sutton testified at a February hearing when her qualification to be an expert witness was determined. She said, "A transfer is when a bloody object comes in contact with another surface, leaving some sort of imprint of the original bloody object."

Prosecutors allege that the letter opener they believe was used to stab Sister Margaret Ann left blood patterns on an altar cloth when it was laid down. Investigators claim the priest owned the letter opener, and that he was in sole possession of it at the time of the killing.

Defense witness Dr. Kathy Reichs is known worldwide for her work as a forensic anthropologist. She helped identify victims at Ground Zero in New York City. The television show "Bones" is based on her work. Dr. Reichs is also a best-selling novelist. Her books are based on her experience as a forensic anthropologist.

She testified at the February hearing, saying, "With trauma analysis, we look at the bones to determine if there’s a gunshot wound, sharp instrument trauma, blunt instrument trauma."

Sister Margaret Ann’s body was exhumed in 2004. The defense is expected to argue that other weapons could have caused the nun’s bone injuries.

One of the first witnesses to testify is expected to be Sister Phyllis Ann Gerold. Police say Sister Phyllis can establish that Father Robinson was at or near the scene of the crime at the time of the murder.

Another notable prosecution witness will be Father Jeffrey Grob from the Chicago Archdiocese. He is considered an expert in Catholic ritual.

A timeline of events in the case:

  • April 5, 1980 -- Sister Margaret Ann Pahl's body is found in the chapel at Mercy Hospital . She had been strangled and stabbed in the chest and neck about 30 times.

  • April 9, 1980 -- Father Gerald Robinson celebrates Sister Margaret Ann's funeral Mass.
    April 18-19, 1980 -- Robinson is questioned by police. He also is given two polygraph tests.

  • June 11, 2003 -- A woman tells the Toledo Catholic Diocese that she suffered years of ritual sex abuse by diocesan and religious-order priests during her childhood. She mentions Robinson's name.

  • December 2003 -- Authorities receive a letter about the woman's allegations and later reopen the investigation into Sister Margaret Ann's death.

  • April 23, 2004 -- Robinson is arrested at his home and charged in the slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.

  • May 7, 2004 -- Robinson pleads not guilty to an aggravated murder charge.

  • December 31, 2005 -- The Lucas County Prosecutor's office reduces the charge against Robinson from aggravated murder to murder, saying the killing was not premeditated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 2004


Priest Convicted In Nun's Slaying

Rev. Gerald Robinson, 68, Immediately Sentenced To 15 Years To Life

TOLEDO, Ohio, May 12, 2006

(CBS/AP) Prosecutors suggested that the Rev. Gerald Robinson had a strained relationship with the nun, a strict taskmaster, and that he reached a breaking point that day.

Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was stabbed 31 times through an altar cloth, with the punctures forming an upside down cross, and her killer then anointed her with a smudge of her blood on the forehead to humiliate her in death, prosecutors said.

Robinson, now 68, had worked closely with Sister Pahl at the Mercy Hospital chapel, where her body was discovered on April 5, 1980.

Robinson was a popular priest, reports CBS affiliate WTOL-TV in Toledo. He was especially well-liked in the city's Polish neighborhoods because he delivered some sermons in Polish and heard confessions in Polish.

He had been an early suspect, but he wasn't charged until two years ago. His attorneys argued that the nun's underwear and fingernails had traces of DNA that that wasn't from Robinson, and that there were no witnesses to place Robinson at the crime.

Robinson, who wore his priest's collar throughout the trial, had no visible reaction as the verdict was read.

Thomas Osowik immediately sentenced him to the mandatory term of 15 years to life in prison, and a courtroom deputy handcuffed the priest and lead him away.

"Let us hope that the conclusion of the trial will bring some measure of healing for all those affected by the case as well as for our local church," Leonard Blair, bishop of the Toledo Diocese, said in a statement. "The diocese has remained steadfast in the work of the Church and its ministries throughout this trial, and will continue to do so."

Robinson's status is that of a retired priest and he continues to be barred from any public ministry, Blair said.

The jury deliberated for six hours following nine days of testimony during which witnesses linked a sword-shaped letter opener found in Robinson's room with the nun's wounds and blood stains found on the altar cloth that covered her body.

The case relied heavily on forensic evidence because prosecutors presented no direct evidence that Robinson killed Sister Pahl, the caretaker of the hospital chapel.

Two forensic experts testified that a dime-sized medallion with the image of the U.S. Capitol on the letter opener appeared to be the source of a faint stain on the altar cloth.

In a videotaped interview with police just after he was arrested in April 2004, Robinson said he was stunned when he walked into the chapel and the hospital's other chaplain accused him of murder.

Jurors watched the tape during the trial and also saw how Robinson, left alone in a small room for a few minutes, fold his hands and began to whisper in a barely audible voice. He whispered the word "sister" and then prayed again with his head bowed, at one point saying, "Oh my Jesus."

Since his arrest, allegations swirled that police did not pursue the case thoroughly because the main suspect was a priest and that the killing was some kind of ritual slaying.

Investigators reopened the murder case in December 2003 after the prosecutor's office received a letter about a woman's claims that she was molested by priests for years as a child. Among the names she mentioned was Robinson. Police have been unable to substantiate her allegations of sexual abuse.

Robinson was a popular priest in this blue-collar city of about 300,000, where a quarter of the residents are Catholic.

He was transferred from the hospital a year after the stabbing and became pastor at three parishes in Toledo. At the time of his arrest, he ministered to the sick and dying in nursing homes and hospitals.

"Obviously, I'm relieved," the victim's niece, Marilyn Duvall, 54, of Nashville, Ind., said after she watched the verdict on television from home. "I was just wondering which way it was going to go. You just never know."


Priest found guilty; cleric gets 15 years to life in nun’s murder

Jury takes 6 hours to reach decision

By David Yonke -

May 12, 2006

A murder case unsolved for 26 years was brought to an unexpectedly quick and dramatic end yesterday after jurors convicted a 68-year-old Toledo priest, Gerald Robinson, in the brutal, ritualistic murder of a nun.

The 12 jurors in the Lucas County Common Pleas Court trial deliberated just over six hours before reaching a unanimous verdict.

Robinson, wearing his clerical collar, showed no emotion as Judge Thomas Osowik read the verdict and then polled the seven female and five male jurors individually.

Judge Osowik then asked Robinson if he wished to say anything and the priest — who did not take the witness stand and never spoke during the three-week trial — declined. The jammed courtroom was eerily silent but for an immediate gasp, followed by the stifled sobs of the priest’s sister-in-law, Barbara Robinson of Toledo.

The judge immediately imposed a sentence of 15 years to life in prison; Robinson will be eligible for parole in 10˝ years. The slight, balding priest was handcuffed and escorted out of the fourth-floor courtroom by court deputies. His defense attorneys announced at a press conference afterward they intend to appeal the verdict.

After three weeks of courtroom testimony by 41 witnesses, with more than 200 items of evidence introduced, it took less than four minutes for Robinson’s verdict, sentence, and removal. The judge focused on procedure and made no remarks.

Robinson, who is retired from the Toledo diocese and barred from public ministry, was taken down an elevator to a basement tunnel leading to the Lucas County jail.

After he was booked, the priest exchanged his black clerical garb for a brown jail jumpsuit — he was not allowed to keep his rosary — and was held overnight in the jail’s second-floor medical unit.

He is under a suicide watch for the next few days as a precautionary measure, according to Jim O’Neal, corrections administrator.

Robinson will be taken within a few days to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio and then transferred to an as-yet undetermined facility.

After the verdict, the three assistant Lucas County prosecutors who tried the case — Dean Mandros, Larry Kiroff, and Chris Anderson — walked through the courtroom’s wooden doors and were greeted with a burst of applause from a small group of observers who were standing in the hallway.

Mr. Mandros immediately shook his head no, signaling them to stop.

“I don’t see it as a reason to celebrate,” Mr. Mandros said. “We’re dealing with a homicide case. We’re trying to hold the person responsible accountable. We didn’t go back in the office and high-five each other.”

Robinson is believed to be the first U.S. Roman Catholic priest ever tried and convicted for murder in the death of a Roman Catholic nun, and the ritualistic aspects of the slaying made the case even more unusual.

“It is unlikely that the factual situation … will ever be repeated,” Mr. Mandros said.

Sister Margaret Ann, a nurse and former administrator of two different Sisters of Mercy hospitals, was choked and stabbed 31 times on the morning of April 5, 1980 — the day before Easter and her 72nd birthday.

The nun, who lived in a convent in Mercy Hospital, slept later than her usual 5 a.m. wake-up that day because there was no 6 a.m. Mass in the chapel on Holy Saturday.

Described as a devout, “old-school” Catholic, Sister Margaret Ann ate a quick breakfast of grapefruit, cereal, and coffee before heading to the sacristy, next door to the chapel, where she planned to make preparations for the evening services.

There the nun, who was hard of hearing, was attacked from behind. The killer wrapped a piece of cloth around her neck and choked her so tightly that he broke two bones in her neck.

Barely alive, Sister Margaret Ann was placed on the cold terrazzo floor and covered with an altar cloth

Jurors agreed it was Robinson who used his distinctive saber-shaped letter opener to stab her nine times over the heart in the shape of an upside-down cross.

He removed the altar cloth, stabbed her 22 more times, and then “anointed” Sister Margaret Ann’s forehead with her own blood.

As a final act of degradation and humiliation, Robinson pulled the nun’s dress up to her chest and her girdle and hose down over her ankles, then penetrated her with either a cross, the letter opener, or his finger, prosecutors said.

The Rev. Jeffrey Grob, a Catholic priest from Chicago and an expert on church rituals and the occult, testified that the killer had a “specialized knowledge” of church ritual and that the murder was intended to mock Sister Margaret Ann and as an affront to the church and to God.

In his closing argument Wednesday, Mr. Mandros said that although there were many ritual elements to the murder, it was “not a satanic cult killing.” Rather, he said, it was “perhaps the most common scenario there is for a homicide: A man got very angry at a woman and the woman died. The only thing different is that the man wore a white collar and the woman wore a habit.”

Mr. Mandros called it a rage killing and said that Robinson, angry at the nun and mad at the world, “had taken a lot, but he wasn’t going to take any more.”

Relatives of Sister Margaret Ann said yesterday that they felt a sense of relief with the verdict.

Lee Pahl, 53, a nephew from the nun’s hometown of Edgerton, Ohio, who attended much of the trial, smiled broadly in the courthouse and said he was glad that the long ordeal was over.

A niece, Marilyn Duvall, 54, of Nashville, Ind., said she watched the trial on CourtTV and was “holding her breath” waiting for the verdict.

“I was quite relieved, and I think they made the correct decision,” she said.

Friends and relatives of Robinson declined to comment. As she exited the courtroom, Robinson’s sister-in-law, wiping away tears, turned to Claudia Vercellotti, local co-coordinator of an advocacy group for victims of clerical abuse, and said, “I hope you rot in hell.”

In a press conference, prosecutors said they were surprised by the quick verdict.

“My keen analysis of the situation is that either we had presented a very overwhelming case, or a very underwhelming case,” Mr. Mandros said.

Defense attorneys Alan Konop, John Thebes, and Nicole Khoury looked tired and dejected when they met with the media.

“Obviously, we are extremely disappointed with the outcome,” Mr. Thebes said, tears welling in his eyes. “Today is difficult. But the jury has spoken and unfortunately that’s the way it is.”

Mr. Konop cut short questions about what the defense might have done differently.

“I’m not going to talk about second guessing, what should and what should not have been done,” he said. “What was done was done. The verdict was rendered. We respect the verdict, and there will be an appeal and we do think there are some appealable issues.”

All 12 jurors opted to skip the press conference. One, Trushay Carpenter, told WTOL-TV yesterday that most jurors initially believed Robinson was guilty and the rest were persuaded during deliberations of the evidence.

She said the prosecution’s case about the murder weapon is what convinced her that Robinson was guilty, and that she felt the defense’s case was not very strong.

Contacted by The Blade last night, juror Denise West said: “It was a very, very difficult case, and I just want to put it behind me.” She declined further comment.

Four other jurors contacted by The Blade last night declined to comment about the trial, and the others could not be reached for comment.

Bishop Leonard Blair, who placed Robinson on leave after his arrest April 23, 2004, said in a statement that it was “a sad day for the diocese of Toledo.”


Hold Up In Father Robinson Appeal Process


May 08, 2007

TOLEDO, Ohio - The lawyer for Gerald Robinson, the Toledo priest convicted of killing a nun, says his client is innocent and he can prove it in the Court of Appeals.

But the appeal process has come to a halt - because the court stenographer who recorded the trial still hasn't turned in paperwork from the case - almost a year after the conviction.

The lawyer for Father Gerald Robinson hopes to present his case here, before the court of appeals. But, he says, he can't because the stenographer hasn't done her job.

Father Robinson's lawyer points out the priest is 69 years old and has had health problems. He says he wants to present his case before it's too late.

After just six hours of deliberations, following nine days of testimony, jurors found Father Gerald Robinson guilty of the horrifying murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.


Toledo Catholic priest Gerald Robinson’s conviction reaffirmed

Claims by priest’s defense rejected in lengthy ruling

By David Yonke -

July 12, 2008

In an unusually long and detailed ruling, the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the 2006 conviction of Toledo Catholic priest Gerald Robinson for the 1980 murder of a nun.

The three-judge panel, in a 95-page ruling, meticulously reviewed and rejected a litany of claims made by Robinson’s attorneys, including ineffective defense counsel, a lack of DNA evidence, injecting Satanism into the trial as a possible motive for the murder, and the loss of evidence and key witnesses over the years.

Judges Peter Handwork, Mark Pietrykowski, and William Skow said there was “abundant substantial evidence” for the Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury to have reached its guilty verdict in the three-week, nationally televised trial held in April and May, 2006.

Robinson’s attorneys said yesterday that they will take their case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

“Obviously the court has spoken and we have to accept that,” John Donahue said. “That doesn’t mean we have to agree with the court, but we’ve got to accept it and we’ve got to move on.”

Dean Mandros, chief of the criminal division of the Lucas County prosecutor’s office, called the decision “a metaphorical pat on the back” for his department.

Both Mr. Donahue and Mr. Mandros said yesterday’s decision was by far the longest from the appeals court that they had seen in their careers.

“I was shocked when I saw it,” Mr. Donahue said.

Robinson, 70, was arrested by Lucas County cold case investigators on April 23, 2004, and convicted on May 11, 2006, for the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.

The 71-year-old nun had been choked nearly to death and then stabbed 31 times in the chest, neck, and face with a saber-shaped letter opener. Her partly naked body was found by another nun on the morning of April 5, 1980 — Holy Saturday — on the floor of the sacristy, next to the chapel, of the former Mercy Hospital in Toledo.

Robinson, who retired in 2004 but is still a priest, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison and is incarcerated at Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, Ohio. His first parole hearing is scheduled for March, 2021.

Attorneys for Robinson claimed in their appeal that crucial evidence had been lost, key witnesses had died, and memories had faded between the time of the murder and the priest’s arrest 24 years later.

But the appeals court said “a defendant must show how lost witnesses and physical evidence would have proven the defendant’s asserted defense,” and that “mere speculation will not be found sufficient.”

It said its ruling on such issues requires “a delicate judgment based on the circumstances of each case,” and concluded that Robinson failed to show how the missing evidence and lost testimony would have exonerated him.

The panel said that after reviewing the evidence and 4,000 pages of trial transcript, “the evidence of the appellant’s guilt — including evidence showing that he was the person who committed the murder and that the instrument that he used to commit the murder was his sword-shaped letter opener — was very strong.”

It also stated that Robinson’s team of lawyers in Common Pleas Court were “skillful, and their strategy sound.”

It rejected claims that prosecutors sought to pre­sent Satanism as a motive for the murder.

The judges cited trial testimony by the Rev. Jeffrey Grob, a Catholic priest and assistant to the exorcist for the Chicago archdiocese, that the killer must have had extensive knowledge of ritual and symbolism.

The judges said Father Grob did not testify that it was a Satanic murder, but that the nun’s killer sought to “mock” and “humiliate” her, the Catholic Church, and God by killing Sister Margaret Ann in front of the Holy Eucharist, stabbing her nine times in the chest in the shape of an inverted cross, and using the victim’s blood to “anoint” her forehead in a “bastardized version of the last rites” ritual.

The appeals court said part of its duty was to serve as “a thirteenth juror” in reviewing the case, and concluded that “the state provided ample evidence at trial for the jury to conclude that appellant was the perpetrator of the homicide.”

Sgt. Steve Forrester of the Lucas County cold case squad, who arrested Robinson in 2004 and testified during the trial, called the ruling “a slam dunk” for the state.

“The three appeals court judges did a thorough, meticulous review of this case and it sounds to me like they were very satisfied with the way everything was done,” Sergeant Forrester said.

Mr. Mandros called it “just another confirmation that Gerald Robinson was guilty.”

He said the appeal “claimed a lot of things took place that there was absolutely no support in the record for, because they didn’t really take place.”

Mr. Mandros said his office put in so many hours on the appeal that “it really can’t be quantified,” and that it was “satisfying” for the judges to say, in effect, that, “Yeah, you guys are right.”

Mr. Donahue said he had no way of contacting Robinson in prison yesterday, but that he notified the priest’s brother, Thomas Robinson, of Maumee, of the ruling and his plans to continue the legal fight.

He said Robinson has been “in good spirits” and “has always accepted God’s will for him.”

“He has quite a following in prison,” Mr. Donahue added.

Attorney Richard Kerger, who also represents Robinson, said he believes arguments that the delay impeded his client’s defense is something the state supreme court needs to address.

Lee Pahl, of Edgerton, Ohio, a nephew of Sister Margaret Ann, said the ruling “certainly is a relief. Any time you have to relive or go through this again, it’s a relief to have it over with. I think they got it right and I’m happy with the court of appeals’ decision. I always thought the original court decision was absolutely correct.”

The Toledo diocese said yesterday that it had no comment on the appeals court decision.


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